Advocate Christine Akinyi. [Fred Kagonye, Standard]

Growing up in a loving home full of empowered women role models can be just the source of inspiration one needs to turn dreams and aspirations into reality. At the intersection of ambitiousness and determination, they can offer the trifecta of how to be successful by sharing their wisdom, providing mentorship, and nurturing one’s innate abilities.

For Christine Akinyi, a Programme Officer at the International Commission of Jurists- Kenya, you could say that growing up in a household full of lawyers, her career path in life was set.

“Growing up, I was fortunate to have accomplished female lawyer role models to look up to. Their illustrious legal careers inspired me to study law as I had seen them thrive in the male-dominated profession,” she says.

Human Rights

As opposed to dominating the bustling courtroom, Akinyi set her sights on advocating not for the guilty or the innocent, but for something far more fundamental; human rights.

“My passion for human rights issues was ignited while studying law, specifically when I took a course on gender and the law as part of my undergraduate studies. It deepened my understanding of gender-based discrimination faced by women and girls, impairing the enjoyment of their human rights,” she said.


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After graduating, she was encouraged by her sister to join the vast civil society sector, championing various causes or even specialising in a niche area. In her formative years, Akinyi worked for various organizations promoting social accountability, democratic governance, the rule of law, and human rights issues.

Progressively, however, she gravitated towards championing a cause that affects the lives of everyday Kenyans. The right to health. Growing up she had seen firsthand the stark disparities in access to healthcare particularly amongst marginalized communities.

Despite having numerous policy and legislative frameworks intended to realise the right to health, attainment of the right to health is still a challenge for most Kenyans.

“I currently work at ICJ Kenya, where I play a key role in the organisation’s advocacy for legislative and policy reforms that are essential to improved access to health services at the national and county levels for Kenya's citizens,” said Akinyi who further observed that: “Advocacy for legislative and policy reforms requires significant effort and takes time. we have built strategic partnerships with key stakeholders in the health sector, including civil society organizations and oversight institutions, to sustain its advocacy for law and policy reforms that enhance the right to health.”

To sensitize Kenyans on this basic yet fundamental right, she has been at the center of working with various stakeholders geared towards sensitizing Kenyans to their rights.

Recognizing that traditional legal strategies alone would not suffice, she embarked on a campaign that was as unconventional as it was effective. The development and use of simplified factsheets and animated videos published in both English and Kiswahili, targeted towards the technology-savvy youth, as well as the elderly who also have access to smartphones.

But as we strive for a healthy nation, it is increasingly becoming apparent that there is a lack of meaningful public participation in policy and law-making processes, government decision-making related to the right to health, and the provision of healthcare services.

“Public participation must be coupled with civic education to enable meaningful citizen engagement. My work entails equipping citizens and communities with knowledge on the right to health to enable them to better engage with emerging health rights issues affecting them,” she observed.

Through several multi-stakeholder engagements involving legislators, policymakers, development partners, the private sector, community health promoters, and civil society actors, Akinyi played a critical role in ICJ Kenya’s development of the bench book on the right to health to guide judicial officers in the adjudication of the right to health.

The bench book is critical as it coincides with Kenya’s efforts to actualize universal health coverage.

Mental Health and Reproductive Rights

Akinyi is also championing other health causes that she says do not get the attention they deserve.

“Mental health is a crucial but often neglected aspect of overall well-being. There is a need to integrate mental health services into primary healthcare systems, increase awareness, and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Also, reproductive health rights are fundamental to individual autonomy and well-being. The government should enact laws and policies that uphold reproductive rights and eliminate discriminatory practices,” she said.

With her sight firmly set on advocating for the right to health for all, she insists, the journey, has just begun.